OSEA Safety Blog

The Effects of the Amazon Rainforest Burning

Friday, January 15, 2021 Tiffany Bartz

In early 2019, nearly 100,000 acres of the Amazon rainforest were cleared and intentionally burnt, primarily in order to make room for cattle. Farmers and ranchers burn down forests and leave the felled trees to dry out. Once the fallen trees have desiccated, they set them on fire, leaving behind an open swath of land ready for agricultural activity. The unfortunate combination of dryer conditions led to the devastating forest fires and the destruction of an additional 310,000 acres of the Amazon rainforest. Fortunately, the forest fires subsided, but the consequences of these fires will have long lasting impacts.

The first victims of these fires are the plants that are scorched, and the animals that are killed or driven from their home. In the Brazilian Amazon, there are, on average, 250 different species of tree per hectare. A recent report indicated that 1 million species are at risk of extinction across the planet and that the main driver in Latin America is habitat destruction of intact ecosystems by agricultural expansion, primarily for beef. The multitudes of plants, trees, insects, frogs, fungi, mammals, birds, and epiphytes lives and homes have been permanently destroyed. The loss of biodiversity in and of itself is devastating.

The second victim of the Amazon fires is our planet and the lasting impact it has with the climate. The Amazon stores the majority of its carbon in the forest, as opposed to other ecosystems; such as the Boreal Forest, where much of the carbon is stored in the soils. While it will take time to know the true carbon cost of the 2019 Amazon fires, preliminary estimates put the carbon released last year at 228 megatonnes (Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Cams) via BBC). This is the equivalent of over 48 million passenger cars driven for a year. The increase in global warming caused by these fires is still being determined.

The third victim of the Amazon fires is humans and the impact it will have on our health. World leading biodiversity experts believe that even more deadly disease outbreaks are likely in the future unless the rampant destruction of the natural world is rapidly halted. We have seen many diseases emerge over the years, such as Zika, Aids, Sars and Ebola, and the current Coronavirus pandemic. They all originated from animal populations under conditions of severe environmental pressures. Pandemics and additional diseases will continue to increase as we destroy our environment.

The world has been ignoring the stark reality of the damage we are incurring on our planet and the effects it has on our environment, our fellow creatures and ourselves for decades. We are a global community and we should start understanding what we can do to make the changes to improve our planet. We only have one.

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